Sense of unity pervades second University vigil

Justin Ware

At a candlelight vigil in the shadows of Northrop Auditorium on Tuesday night, students were scared, frustrated, angry and disheartened; but above all else, they were together.

“In all the news you heard and videos you saw, you heard the words ‘we’ and `us,'” Carla Peterson, a senior political science major, said. “That is something powerful.”

Fifteen minutes before the impromptu vigil – the function was not University organized, but assembled by two college students with a little help from Kinkos – just more than 100 people were sitting on the steps awaiting the start. By 9:00 p.m., when the second speaker took over, there were 200.

“We should be afraid,” Jake Jagdfeld, a liberal arts senior, said. “What happened today was terrifying.”

Earlier on Tuesday, students, faculty and religious leaders gathered at the same location to foster feelings of solidarity, regardless of race or religion.

Unity took extra significance for those who are part of or have friends in the Arab or Muslim community.

“Just yesterday, we were all individuals,” Bryan Jackson, a senior education major said, “At 8 a.m. this morning, we came together.”

Jackson said one of his closest friends is Muslim, but he doesn’t look at him any differently after the tragedies.

“I look at him as my friend,” he said.

Jackson and Carston Turner, a senior in film studies, have added interest in the events Tuesday: they both have family in New York City.

“At any given time, they could have been (at the World Trade Center),” said Jackson.

Neither Turner nor Jackson have any way of knowing if their families were near the disaster. Both have been unable to make phone contact.

“The phone lines are busy or we are being (redirected) to other states,” Turner said.

Throughout the crowd, students listened as more and more individuals spoke freely about how the news and images of the attacks affected them. Heads rested on shoulders and hands clasped together. There were many tired faces, but none expressionless.

For many people, not just at the rally, but everywhere in the United States, this was the first time they have experienced an attack of such magnitude on U.S. soil.

Several speakers commented on how enduring tragedies so close to home has changed the way they look at events in other countries.

“When you see or read about things that happen in other, far away countries, what happened in America today will change your perspective forever,” Jagdfeld said to more than 400 people who had gathered by the end of the ceremony.

Justin Ware welcomes comments at [email protected]